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Loaded Crusaders continue to dominate the Metro League district with stellar play

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Jesuit junior Peter Murphy won his third straight Metro League championship last weekend.

The reasons why the Jesuit boys tennis team basically runs the Metro League and the Class 6A state level as a whole are too far-ranging to list.

The Crusaders' top tier talent is next level in terms of collegiate prospects and potential. The depth is copious, to the point Jesuit holds its own tryouts to determine who will make the district tournament lineup. Players who don't make the cut could probably start at most of the public schools in the area. The index of assets rolls on from year to year.

Jesuit won another Metro League tournament title on May 11 at Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District, picking up district first places from junior singles star Peter Murphy, top doubles' team Tommy Kallgren and Jaden D'Abreo. Three Crusader doubles' teams punched their tickets to state as well. Freshmen Siddarth Chava and Chase Baldocchi faced Kallgren and D'Abreo in the Metro final. Senior Charlie Law and Wyatt Warrington took third while juniors Connor and Spencer Barnett placed fourth.

"The guys were prepared and all their hard work this year certainly paid off," Jesuit head coach Jeff Wood said. "You never know going into it. There is an incredible amount of pressure when you're playing a match for moving onto next week or not. It changes the environment. These guys work hard to bring their games to a level where they can still thrive and get through."

On paper, with the most state entrants in the Class 6A field, the defending champs will again be the favorites come this Friday and Saturday at THRPD.

"I told them just to enjoy the moment," Wood said. "This what you play for. Right now, they're part of the top 28 singles players and top 28 doubles players in the state of Oregon. That in itself is an amazing achievement. I don't want them to lose sight of that. I want them to go and have a great time this weekend, that's the number one goal."

Jesuit's separator comes away from match play. The best players such as Murphy, Kallgren and D'Abreo have the strongest work ethics and set the tone for the rest of the crew. They're grinders who put the time in year-round so that when and if the stakes rise, their muscle memory can kick in and carry them to good tennis. And even the top standouts aren't immune to Jesuit's de facto team-wide tournament that determines who will suit up at districts long before the Metro tournament pairings are set. Wood believes in creating a sort of one-and-done dynamic amongst his players, that any match could be their last — win or go home.

"I'm a fan of exposing yourself to pressure situations and learning to adapt and thrive in that environment," Wood said. "That feeling of elimination started weeks before the district tournament. I feel that's the best way to prepare them. To spring that on them and say 'Here you go' does not serve them well. It's exposing yourself to things outside of your comfort zone and those kids work really hard at that."

D'Abreo and Kallgren beat Baldocchi and Chava 6-2, 6-2 in the doubles' final, this after sending Warrington and Law to the consolation bracket. Beating two pairs of teammates on the same day is never enjoyable as taking down a foil from a rival school. Wood said celebrations are more subdued out of respect for one another, seeing that these pairings have played against each other in practice for most of the year.

"I'm in awe of what they're able to do on that," Wood said. "You're essentially helping each other get better and in a flash, you're asked to compete against each other. One person gains a large benefit from that, while the other is going to feel some disappointment. The way they acknowledge that and help each other through that is pretty amazing."

And those don't have as much of a say in the district race still play just a big of a part as the guys lining up in the Metro finals. Their participation, energy and fraternity supporting their teammates are equally important in promoting a team-first environment. Jesuit's large faction of fans and non-participating players has been known as "intimidating" by other foes, but not in a negative sense. They crowd the outskirts of the THPRD chain link fences, sitting as close as possible to the action and filling the grassy knolls behind them. If action is moved inside the THRPD bubble, the trapped noise goes up two levels. Tennis, like swimming or wrestling or track and field, can be individualistic. That's just the nature of the sport. But Jesuit promotes selfless camaraderie aimed at being something bigger than yourself.

"That's the best part of this," Wood said. "The school does a really good job of fostering that community feeling and I'm just lucky to be a part of that."

Murphy took care of business, beating Westview senior Adam Shinomiya in the final 6-0, 6-1 after taking down Matthew Kim in the semis 6-0, 6-1.

"He loves playing in the Metro League against these guys," Wood said. "He just appreciates the caliber of play that those guys bring. Quite frankly, it's what helps make Murphy better and gets him ready for state. I'm really proud of how he did."

Kim, Shinomiya and fellow Westview senior Andrew Vu will all play singles and represent the Metro League at state.

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